Upholding the unique cultural heritage of Ambalangoda village passed down among the generations, the Ariyapala Mask Museum is one of the interesting tourist destinations in Sri Lanka that presents a wide variety of traditional and peculiar hand-made masks and other articrafts of cottage industry are on sale and show. The surviving traditional communities of the region like Karava fishing people and Wijesooriya family, stage masked plays and presentation for you.
A modern-built traditional museum with a splendid collection of traditional masks and other related articrafts is the main attraction that awaits you at Ariyapala Masks Museum. Here nearly 120 unique masks used in the traditional dance rituals and religious festivals are displays on show and there would be English speaking staff explaining the procedure and culture to you. The Museum has a retail store, workshop, and library inside where you have books and pamphlets to delve deep into their strange tradition.
For centuries, these traditional masks have been an indispensable part of Sri Lankan culture and its folklore. They were used and worn by actors in theatrical performances and ritual fests conducted according to their customs. The art of mask-making was hand down in the generations from their forefathers. Even though the tradition vanished from the many parts of the region, the Wijesuriya family, out of all the former mask-making families, has been trying to retain the heritage for five generations. The museum has been named after Ariyapala Wijesuriya Gurunnanse, one of the Wijesuriya family ancestors.
The Museum has its own store located upstairs where creative masks of a wide variety of designs and tools used to make them are for sale. You can purchase souvenirs, other handicrafts, traditional jewelry, wooden toys, and the masks. There is no fee to visit the museum or the store, but they are happy to receive a donation from you. The price for the products and masks shall be varying according to the complexity of the making and design.
Ariyapala Mask Museum is positioned 42 kilometers towards the south of Kalutara town. To reach Ambalangoda, you shall have to take the Galle road and take the right turn into the main road, which is just before reaching Ambalangoda town. Ambalangoda, being a major station, is served by the Railway's Coastal Line of Sri Lank and connected to the major cities that lie upwards, like Galle and Colombo. By road, it is accessible by A2 highway that just passes through the town and E01 expressway which necessitates a right turn of 13 kilometers from Kurundugahahetekma.
The masks at Ariyapala are made in a separate workshop where the guests have access to. You can watch and use your camera, but not in the museum. The masks are carved out of a fine Balsa wood that is easier to handle. After the trunk dried, pieces are cut out according to the measurement. The base shapes of the masks are carved with chisels and mallet, traditionally used tools. Shapes are then smoked for fortifying effects. Later complicated and eloborated expressions are formed on them. The works end with appropriate painting.